Flashy lights and bits of gear


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A very common response we seem to be getting from people who join us for P.I.E. nights is a reaction of nerves; not just towards the Historic Site, but also towards the gear we use!

It’s all high tech and fancy and can look pretty intimidating to someone who’s never had the chance to play with it all before, but for the most part it’s all pretty straight forward and certainly nothing to be scared of.

We use so much gear because we want to track as many variables as possible during an investigation.  Because no one can define exactly what paranormal activity is, we need to cover as much ground as we possibly can, including some things that we as human beings can’t detect without gear to show us.

What does some of the equipment look for?

  • Fluctuations in atmospheric conditions such as temperature, humidity and air pressure.
  • Fluctuations in the electro-magnetic field (outside of visible light and audible sound etc.)
  • Anomalous sounds and sights (both those perceived at the time and those missed until evidence review)
  • Fluctuations in positive air ions.

So basically all of the equipment you get to use is not necessarily designed to prove the presence of the paranormal (with the exception of video cameras/sound recorders), so much as it is designed to rule out external influences which might contribute to paranormal experiences.

So what does this all mean for investigating?

If you’re wandering through an old house with an EMF meter and it lights up, chances are you’ve stumbled across a field produced by faulty wiring or a security system.  If it’s in a location where people are prone to experiencing odd sensations, there could be a correlation between the EMF and the effect it has on humans.  It makes you wonder about places like the Parsonage and the Commandant’s House, where we have long documented histories about people experiencing the paranormal, and have since discovered substantial EMF leaks from the respective security systems in the buildings.  Is there a link there?  Or are people truly experiencing ghostly apparitions and the like?

Likewise, a sudden drop in temperature doesn’t mean you just walked through Casper, but might be linked to pockets of air in the building.  Or you might feel a sudden drop in ambient temperature, but a thermometer might show that nothing’s happened.

This is why so much flashy gear!

 

Paranormal Phenomen-huh?


What is Paranormal Phenomena?

It’s a good question.  There are many and varied theories in the Paranormal Investigation field as to what exactly the paranormal is.  It’s hard to define any one leading theory, so here at Port Arthur we’re exploring four of them in our investigations.

THEORY #1 – “Ghosts are Dead People”

It is a belief held by many cultures right throughout the world – that the body and spirit are separate, and that when a person dies their spirit comes away from the body.  In some beliefs the spirit moves on to a different plane of existence, for others the spirit continues to walk the earth as a ghostly entity.
We tend to base our ghost tours on this theory, but a few nights ago I decided to find out what my ghost tour group thought about ghosts, so I asked them!  I had a school group of 13-14 year old kids from a remote region of Tasmania, who all came up with ideas of what they thought ghosts were:

“I think they’re dead people’s souls”

“When you die you might have unfinished things to do so you hang around”

“It’s dead people”

“When i was little my pop used to talk to me.  He died before i was born”

“It’s like, your spirit”

Inevitably, these kids’ theories all revolved around the idea of ghosts being dead people. 

THEORY #2 – “Parallel Universes”

The thought of parallel universes existing can be a thought that makes your brain hurt if you dwell on it for too long.  But it’s an interesting thought at the same time!
Imagine the world as a sheet hanging on a clothesline, alongside possibly one or more other sheets/worlds.  They exist side by side, but separate from one another.  Now picture what happens when the wind blows – the sheets connect every now and then for brief but significant moments.  (This is not to suggest that paranormal phenomena will happen only on windy days)

We have a ghost story from the 1870s at Port Arthur that makes you stop and wonder about the possible legitimacy of this theory.
In the Parsonage (Port Arthur’s historically haunted house) there lived a family by the name of Hayward.  They had experienced many odd things in the house, but one story talks of a servant walking into a front room of the house only to find a figure at the window in ‘strange garb’ holding a raised object like a dagger ‘as though to strike’.
This would be a terrifying experience, no doubt.  Reverend Hayward was said to have had to ‘box her ears’ to bring sense to the servant after the episode.  But here’s a thought: What if what that servant saw was a ghost tour guide in present time, holding a torch and peering in to the house?  (Brain explodes!)

THEORY #3 – “The Power of Suggestion” 

The human mind is incredible.  Scientists are only just beginning to understand the limitations and possibilities of the human brain.  There is still so much that is unknown about our capabilities!

I’ve seen (as I’m sure most of my fellow guides have too) just how strong the power of suggestion can be.  Without giving away too many tricks of the trade, in the job of tour guide where your tour group are expecting to be scared you soon learn to develop a few subtle skills in creating atmosphere.  Many’s the time I’ve had people ‘experience’ the paranormal on tour, though about 75% of the time when asked to describe exactly what’s happened to them they will regurgitate something they’ve already been told on tour.  In many cases this is a ploy for attention, however there are cases where visitors are completely convinced that they have experienced something, and will even have physiological reactions to the event.

THEORY #4 – “This is All a Pile of Poo”

A very valid theory that can’t be discounted.  There are studies being done in parts of the world on various external influences on the human experience.  Factors such as Electro Magnetic Fields and Infrasound are being tested for their potential to create a “haunted” atmosphere.  There are suggestions that various external factors can produce hallucinations, feelings of unease, and even that wonderful and comforting sensation of seeing movement out of the corner of your eye.

So these are the theories we’re working with at Port Arthur, and by concentrating on all of these different possibilities it’s helping us to remain open-minded about the various experiences reported on site.  It also helps bring us back to the importance of always asking questions.

Just because someone talks to their Pop as a kid, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are talking to a dead person’s spirit.  Maybe they are talking to their Pop from another world (after all, having never known their Pop, they would be unaware of how any behaviour might differ from their actual Pop).  Maybe, having never met their Pop, this kid wanted to talk to him and was convinced by their own mind that it was really happening.  Or maybe the location of the home combined with any number of external factors created the illusion that Pop was indeed present and chatty.  Oh the possibilities!

‘Til next time, the P.I.E. team.